Home Insider Expat Insider Interview with Irrawaddy Green Towers’s Chief Financial Officer Elie El Haddad

Interview with Irrawaddy Green Towers’s Chief Financial Officer Elie El Haddad

Career Background prior joining IGT: Has 15 years of experience in the finance sector at various functional positions. Was the Corporate Accounting Manager at M1 Group new holding incorporated post Invest com holding Telecom operator sale to MTN, leading a team of 20 to facilitate operations across various business segments and countries.

At M1 was also in charge of analyzing and reviewing major contracts to ensure accurate recording of significant business transactions and their alignment vs. contractual commitments and tax regulations Previously he has worked at Diageo as the Operation Finance & Supply Chain Manager for the Levant & North Africa region. Holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Computers Science from the Saint Joseph University of Lebanon.[paypal]

When was your first visit to Myanmar?

What was your first impression of the country then? I came for the 1st time in September 2014 for a board meeting.

I was impressed by the nature, ongoing developments, the hospitality and the kindness of the Myanmar people.

Please explain to our reader about IGT and its current p

osition in the market.

IGT is a tower company signed a BOT agreement with telecom operators in Myanmar since early 2014.

Currently we are the biggest tower company in Myanmar with over 2000 sites on air with additional 2000 under construction. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the telecom operators for their trust in IGT and we are looking forward to grow our business partnership together through ensuring the best services are provided to customers and/or users counting on the support, dedication and commitment of our in house team and outsourced vendors and business partners to make it happen.

What are your primary responsibilities?

  • Managing & Leading a team of 100 people to facilitate, support and control the various aspects of the business from procuring to construction and operation. (4 operators and more than 250 suppliers).
  • Consolidate all department’s requirements so that to prepare a yearly, monthly budget and 15Y Business Plan for board, lenders and investment committee approval through commenting on ways to boost project and equity IRR (Internal Rate of Returns) while ensuring meeting financial covenants at all time.
  • Key contact for audit, tax authorities, government bodies, lenders and investor’s for current and any future business operations. – Set’s clear policies, procedures, KPI’s and JD’s to ensure deliverables while implementing the same controls and matrix of responsibilities in ERP ensuring full control, automation and standardization are in place to control inter department and overall flows.

How does working in Myanmar compare with other countries?

In fact this is my first time working and being abroad for good, I was all the time based on my home country and going in short weekly or monthly trips to support the different line of businesses spread all over the countries.

At personal level I had two main challenges:

  1. Being away from my family and so far from my home country which is the biggest challenge
  2. Work challenges are also big mainly driven by lack of business orientation and the fact of not having enough in country resources to cater or fulfill our business requirements so we were obliged to hire expatriates and foreign suppliers at the beginning which is not cost efficient, but currently were counting more and more on localization of vendors and employees.

Myanmar is a country under development so currently lots of challenges are faced but ongoing improvements are happening in all sectors banking, tax laws and regulations, Finance, Infra structure … which will help investors, companies and country to grow.

Please explain how you obtained financial from FMO and IFC?

Due to the lack of trust in the business and banking sector in Myanmar our shareholders were obliged to inject a big amount of equity then managed a short term loan from Qinvest.

After a year of ongoing discussions we managed to convert our loan from short to long term facility up to $167m from 6 DFI’s led by FMO (Dutch development bank), currently we are having ongoing discussions IFC and ADB for additional equity and loan funding up to $500m.

What are the long term objectives of IGT in Myanmar?

To grow the telecom industry and the infrastructure in Myanmar at all levels Tower, Fiber.

What are your future expansion plans for Myanmar?

Grow the business while sustaining our leading position through building and maintaining the most reliable and profitable tower business in Myanmar.

What is your target market segment?

Our focus would be to improve and develop the Myanmar infra structure at all levels especially that now we are supported by DFI’s funding which would allow us to do so.

What are your current CSR activities?

CSR activities is an obligation as part of our license, on top of that us and our shareholders are really keen to fully support by providing the needed funding to communities, orphanage, hospitals, village donation, etc.

What is your views on the recent press release by Myanmar Tower contractors association on the issues of tower companies mistreating and not paying local contractors?

In my opinion the issue has two folds and we have to hear both sides of the story. If the local contractor is right he should follow and sue the company or the foreign contractor till he receives his dues up to the last penny.

In case the issue is driven by local contractors using their own influence to abuse others and get the maximum advantage out of the company who made big investments to support the infrastructure in Myanmar then it’s up to them to sue local contractors to get their rights.

What controls have you got in place to ensure that local contractors are being paid by timely basis?

This is an ongoing process and we keep on improving our policies and processes to avoid these issues or minimize as much as we can. Challenges are big and our way of working involve several vendors from EPC, Foreign and local contractors. Mainly the biggest award is granted to the local ones.

I think having 3000 landlords and majority of our contractors being local is a big support yo the community and we always try to prioritize their payments over others, considering their limited resources.

How are you increasing the local content and employment in IGT?

We started with 40% expats and 60% locals post localization initiative we managed to drop the ratio to 20%/80%. In total we have 250 direct local employees, 3ooo landlords and offered more than 10,000 business opportunities for locals through our vendors. We started a local empowerment plan and we are keen to develop our team and have nominated all the candidates and currently we are in the process of providing them with the necessary developments and the proper mentoring needed to promote and sustain them.

How are you enjoying your life here in Myanmar?

Work load when constructing and operating towers is big; at the same time we have to ensure funds availability at all time so honestly I have not had time to enjoy life yet. I should improve my work life balance which is always a main challenge.[/paypal]